Poplar – and an unusual survival

Poplar  was first recorded, as Popler, in 1327.  It takes its name from the poplar tree, in  reference to such once having abounded in the marshy ground hereabouts. It was probably first settled in the Medieval period, although still only sparsely populated in the post-Medieval, leastwise before the Great Fire of 1666.

In Tudor times, Sir Thomas Spert and 54 mariners lodged here while sails were made for Henry VIII’s  great ship “Henri Grace a Dieu”  (which later saw action against the French at the Battle of the Solent, in which the “Mary Rose” sank; and later still transported the king to the peace summit with the French at the Field of the Cloth of Gold).


3 - Seventeenth-century ceiling boss bearing the coat of arms of the East India CompanyIn  succeeding Stuart times, the (Honourable) East India Company built a chapel here for its workers in nearby Blackwall.   Actually, although building work on the chapel commenced in 1642, during the Civil War, it was not completed until 1654, during the inter-regnum between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the restoration of Charles II in 1660.  (It is the only place of worship in London to date to this turbulent time, and indeed one of only a very few in the entire  country).  Its design was originally “severely rectangular”, and as such ideally suited to the form of worship practised by the Puritans, which emphasised the importance of the word over that  of the ceremony.  The chapel became a parish church, dedicated to St Matthias, when the East India Company dissolved in the 1870s, and the church in turn became a community centre in the 1990s – see link to website below.

The exterior of the building was rebuilt, by William Milford Teulon, younger brother of the more famous Samuel Sanders Teulon, in the late nineteenth century, although, remarkably, the interior remains to this day essentially as it was in the mid-seventeenth.

Exterior (dates from late 19th century)

General view of the late nineteenth-century exterior

Interior - 17th century (and later)

General view of the seventeenth-century and later interior. Note the Tuscan columns and elliptically-vaulted ceiling.

Seventeenth-century ceiling boss bearing the coat of arms of the East India Company

Seventeenth-century ceiling boss bearing the coat of arms of the East India Company

17th century gravestone of Hall Hall & family

Seventeenth-century gravestone of Henry Hall and family

18th century memorial

Eighteenth-century memorial to Captain Philip Worth of the East India Company

Early 19th century memorial

Early nineteenth-century memorial to Captain John Barfoot of the East India Company

Late 19th century stained glass

A rather fine late nineteenth-century stained-glass window

Link to St Matthias Community Centre website here

1 thought on “Poplar – and an unusual survival

  1. Pingback: Maritime Blackwall – Virginia Settlers & East India Co. | The Lost City of London

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